Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 26, 2013

Preventing the summer slide

City school district looks to promote summer reading program to keep kids learning

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — There’s a lot going on in the summer for kids. Vacations, swimming and playing ball. Barbecues, picnics and family events. And best of all, summer usually means no school.

But, in those two months or so, a student can take a step back academically.

According to an April 2013 survey by Reading Is Fundamental, about 50 percent of parents polled said their child either watches television or plays video games more than they read. A recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts said fewer 9-,13- and 17-year-olds are reading for fun. That same report said reading scores have decreased over the past few years.

Studies have also shown that children’s reading and comprehension skills diminish during the summer months. And those losses can add up, meaning by the time a student reaches middle school they could be as far as two years behind where they should be in reading ability.

But those same studies show those who read outside of school fare much better in maintaining those skills. So, some are now hoping summer also means kids are reading.

The Lockport City School District is promoting its annual summer reading program, an initiative for kids in fifth through 12th grade that awards them credit in English for reading books over the summer. And to help stir interest, there are two incentives for kids who chose to read.

First, completing a book project awards the student one point on their first quarter English average, while finishing a second project gives them two additional points. Students can start the school year with up to three extra points on their first quarter English grade.

The other incentive is tastier. Those who participate receive a free vanilla ice cream from Frey’s Tasty Treat on South Transit Road. 

“We are more than happy to do it for the kids,” said Owner John Frey.

Frey knows the value of reading and how important it is in order for a student to do well in school. Frey said he wasn’t a good reader and often struggled in school.

Aside from its partnership with the school, Frey’s Tasty Treat is hosting its own story time on Wednesday during the summer. Frey said the stand’s backyard is usually set up with blankets or a tent.

“My wife likes doing it,” Frey said.

Shawn Murray, assistant principal at Emmet Belknap Intermediate, is chairing the Lockport summer reading program. Murray said he struggled with reading comprehension before he entered high school. He didn’t read outside of what he had to and that set him back significantly as a student.

It took some hard work, but Murray succeeded at becoming a better reader and a better student. That experience and knowledge is what he hopes to share with students and the reason he got into education.

“The harder they push themselves in school, the more opportunities they will have as an adult, the more options they will have if they want to go to college and the better worker they will be in the real world,” Murray said.

The summer reading program works like this. First, kids read a book. Next, they complete a project at home or write an essay at the Lockport Public Library on East Avenue during the evaluator sessions. In order to earn their points, students must meet with an evaluator in the community room at the library.

The reading evaluations will be held Aug. 12 and 13, then again on Aug. 26 through 28. Each date, except on Aug. 28, will have a morning session that runs from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. All five dates will have an afternoon session that runs from 3 until 7 p.m.

There are a number of different projects a student can do for credit. Some of them include a reading response log, which is a personal reflection for each chapter. They can create a PowerPoint presentation, timeline or brochure on the book, as well as a collage or poem. They can also write a prequel or sequel to the book, or create an editorial cartoon or a diorama.

Murray said while there is a list of suggested books for students, readers don’t have to stick to the list. But, high school students enrolled in honors English or advanced placement classes cannot use books that are required reading for the summer program. They can, however, read additional books to earn summer reading credit.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.